ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Child Height in India

Facts and Interpretations from the NFHS-4, 2015–16

An analysis of child height-for-age using the newly released data from the National Family Health Survey-4 indicates that the average child height increased by about four-tenths of a height-for-age standard deviation between 2005 and 2015. Although important, this increase is small relative to India’s overall height deficit, and relative to economic progress; children in India remain among the shortest in the world. It is unsurprising that the increase in height-for-age has been modest because none of the principal factors responsible for India’s poor child height outcomes have substantially improved over the last decade. Familiar patterns of regional, sex, and caste disadvantage are reflected in child height in 2015.

The average height of a population’s children is increasingly recognised as an important measure of human development. This is because the distribution of height in a population is shaped by the health and well-being that children experience at young ages. Early life is an important time: what happens to babies and children matters for their achievement, health, and survival throughout their lives. So, when child height in a population is shorter than would be healthy and achievable, such a height deficit reflects a substantial measure of forgone well-being, both for the welfare of the present day and for the duration of the future time that stunted children will live and will influence the economy and society as adults.

As has been widely recognised, children in India are unhealthily short, on average. The average child in India is shorter than children raised by upper-middle-class families in Delhi; is shorter than children in other developing countries; and is much shorter than would be achievable with better health, nutrition, sanitation, and maternal well-being.

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Updated On : 3rd Aug, 2018
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